Monson radio tower to receive backup power system
DOVER-FOXCROFT — During the weekend storm that struck New England, consisting of what was once Hurricane Lee, the Monson Fire Department was responding to a number of calls in the town as well as the surrounding area these firefighters cover. A power outage ended up knocking out communications via the radio tower and there was a lack of power source to charge the backup batteries, leaving department members unable to talk with one another.
To prevent such conditions from happening again, the Piscataquis County Commissioners approved the purchase of a portable solar-powered battery system during a meeting on Tuesday morning. Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency Director Jaeme Duggan will find a finalized equipment package but she said this would be in the $5,000-6,000 range with monies coming from American Rescue Plan Act funds.
Duggan told the commissioners she heard there was an outage in Monson during the storm, but she did not know there was not a backup system up and running for the storm. The tower has been in place for several years and never before has the site had a similar problem.
“We had a tree fall down on the North Guilford Road in Monson and we had no power,” Monson Fire Chief Ryan Laplante said, mentioning Monson now covers Shirley and has been providing service to nearby Unorganized Territories via contracts with the county.
He said the outage included knocking out radio communications with the tower offline, so the Guilford Fire Department needed to cover Monson which also left the town to the south shorter staffed than it would be otherwise.
Laplante said there are backup batteries for the tower but there was a lack of a power source to charge these.
“We lost power again and we lost all our communications,” he said. Laplante said there were 14 calls on Saturday, including a fallen line on a minivan with a person inside the vehicle.
Duggan had three options to present to the commissioners, including an uninterrupted supplier that works with the existing equipment and another that works off a half dozen-plus costly 12-volt batteries. She said the third option was the most ideal, with portable solar-powered batteries.
“I could plug it in the day it arrives,” Duggan said. She said power would be provided for one to three days with no sun, and then sunlight would recharge the batteries.
Under a county radio system overhaul, the Monson tower would receive a new reliable backup power system so the solar batteries would revert to the EMA. “Then it could be pulled to go anywhere we need it for backup power in an emergency,” Duggan said.
“It’s a short-term solution because it gets power to this station immediately then it is a long-term solution because most of the gas stations don’t have generators,” she said as an example of future usage.
“I personally think solar’s the way to go, generators are going to require maintenance,” Laplante said.
“It gives you that three days time to get up there if you have to and again, I don’t think gasoline’s the best option,” Duggan said.
In her report Duggan said the weekend was incredibly busy including a line for the county campus falling but she said Central Maine Power responded very quickly.
She said there was flooding in low-lying wet areas but “the Piscatauqis (River) just stayed at the active stage.”
Duggan was unsure of the number of roads closed due to downed trees and limbs and power lines, but she said area fire departments were amazing in getting out and clearing the hazards Saturday into Sunday.
Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Todd Lyford echoed Duggan’s comments by thanking the “fire departments for taking care of the traffic issues we had with the downed trees.”
In other business, Head of Maintenance Josh York said later in the day he would be having a meeting on the Piscataquis County Jail HVAC upgrades and he should have more to report to the commissioners at the Oct. 3 meeting.
On Sept. 5 the commissioners selected ABM Mechanical, Inc. of Bangor to carry out upgrades to the HVAC system at the jail. The firm’s bid of approximately $828,000 will be covered with ARPA funds.
In July the county had approximately $2.2 million of its $3.2 million in ARPA funding left. Commissioners had mentioned splitting this money between the HVAC system and a dispatch center remodel.
York also said he is awaiting revised prices on work to erect multiple flag poles on the county campus and will hopefully have more information for the Oct. 3 meeting.
The commissioners had discussed some ideas to place a new flag pole(s) as a pole currently sits atop the complex building.
York said one site could be near the sidewalk with the pole, base, and electrical work to spotlight the flag costing around $10,000 and the commissioners wondered if multiple poles could go there. The other by the side of the building would include room for multiple poles and with the landscaping and electrical installation the price would be in the $35,000 ballpark.
York said work would not start until the spring so there is time to plan.